Reading: The Rebel Grandma

Make Your Voice Heard

The Rebel Grandma

She is a mother to 12 and a former librarian. Now she's created a powerful vehicle for Political Activism

By Katie Weisman

woman in fragile tape screaming

Photo by Morgan Basham for unsplash

Susan Rogan's list is not just another outrage blog. Stop getting angry: Read and take action.


For many, the election of President Trump became a call to action. It was a sharp reminder that American citizens can lobby their local, state, or national representatives in their own right on important issues. The problem was, and still is, that political novices don’t necessarily know what they should be doing, where they should be doing it, or what organizations align with their sociopolitical values. Susan Rogan, however, has lots of answers in her blog.

Rogan’s List is a daily action list for people who are unhappy with the current administration and want to get involved but don’t have time for research. This three-time retired librarian launched her blog because, in the days following the election, she felt she had to act against Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress and help others do the same.

“On election night, I was ‘Pantsuit Nation.’ For a week and a half I had my toenails painted blue, which is not me at all. I had my printout from Nate Silver, I was watching and watching, and checking, and watching it unfold on television,” Rogan recalls, describing how the map changed to red as the votes came in, East to West, across the US. “It was just crazy and I went to bed, which is how I handle most depressing things.”

The following morning, Rogan says she felt numb. Like many Clinton voters, she was shaken and shocked by Trump’s success. Rogan felt compelled to do something but wasn’t sure what that “something” would be. She settled on figuring out what was happening, discerning the truth, and helping inform people on what to do. She joined a few political Facebook groups and began posting several times a day. Her followers asked her to start a blog, and Rogan’s List was born.

FROM LIBRARIAN TO BLOGGER

Even though Rogan was a university-level librarian whose expertise was notably the internet and research, she had no knowledge of how to start a blog. Nonetheless, she pushed out of her comfort zone, subscribed to Blogger, and launched Rogan’s List. The blog now has 12 contributors, and Rogan is looking for more since the amount of daily news to respond to is enormous. Everyone works voluntarily, as the blog does not accept advertisements and does not generate revenue. There are 6,000 subscribers for the daily email news feed, and the blog is posted by over 100 Facebook groups. Rogan doesn’t know how many visit her site, nor does she know how many times the blog or parts of it are tweeted or retweeted.

On any given day, Rogan’s List will feature news about Congressional bill proposals or votes and initiatives by various Federal government offices. She discusses the items using supporting sources, strives to make the content brief for readers with limited time, and then offers suggestions for actions her readers can take.

On October 30th, one week before the midterm elections, Rogan’s List included posts on such key issues as gun control and voter suppression, along with last-minute things people can do to get out the vote. It also had an otherwise hidden piece of news from dcreport.org and altgov2.org revealing that Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has proposed a “massive purge” of department records and those of its sub-agencies including the National Park Service and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. These records include those related to the protection of endangered species as well as “oil and gas leases, timber sales, and dams and land purchases.” Rogan’s List advocates urging members of Congress to deny Zinke’s request and make sure that such records are preserved for historical purposes in the US Archives. It also provides an email address for the public to comment against the measure.

A VOICE OF REASON

Scores of political action websites have emerged since the 2016 election, but Rogan’s List’s vetted sources and succinct nature makes it stand out. While Rogan’s List is clearly anti-Trump, Rogan relies on sources she considers as centrist and objective as possible to underpin the research behind what she posts. She regularly refers to two bias-checking websites, adfontesmedia.com and Media Bias Fact Check, to vet the validity of the content she posts and their source.

“We look for a reasoned tone rather than rage,” she says. “Daily Kos says what we want to hear, but we never use it because it doesn’t meet our standard.” One challenge for the everyday person is their lack of access to balanced political journalism from quality sources such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal because of paywalls. This is where local libraries shine by offering free access to such media.

And this is where her professional career as a librarian helps. Rogan, who studied journalism as an undergraduate and earned her Master’s Degree in information science, was a full professor at Central Michigan University at age 40, the first woman librarian to attain that rank. She taught library skills classes to undergraduate and graduate students. In fact, Rogan was the first to teach the internet to students and faculty at Central Michigan’s Business School, where courses on the internet were first offered when the World Wide Web emerged.

She says that finding accurate information has been part of her life since she was a high-school debater. “There was a national topic every year, and [the debate team] had to take sides. You had to gather documentation that backed the points you want[ed] to make. We’d spend hours and hours in the library doing research the old way,” Rogan explains. “I’ve spent years teaching students how to vet sources and evaluate primary and secondary sources.”

THE REBEL GRANDMA

Rogan writes her blog from a black recliner dotted with graphic flowers in her home office in Michigan. She is the proud adoptive mother of 11 children who now range in age from 21–48, and grandmother to nine. She was a librarian first at the university level but retired to spend more time at home with her kids. After realizing that being a stay-at-home mom wasn’t right for her, Rogan found a job at a community college. She took another break to manage family circumstances, and then worked at an elementary school as a paraprofessional in the library.

The issues Rogan’s List reports on often impact Rogan personally. Following a divorce and the death of one of her children, Rogan found herself in a fulfilling same-sex relationship. She and her wife celebrated their second anniversary in April, and they now have guardianship of an 11-year-old girl.

“At the beginning, when Trump was talking about getting rid of immigrants, one of my Korean-born daughters came to me and asked if [they] would have their citizenship taken away,” she recounts. “How dare you make my kids feel that way, that they don’t belong! Just breathe deeply and carry on.”

  1. Ginny Abate

    I have known Sue, for over sixteen years, and I am proud, to call her, my dearest friend.
    With Rogan’s List, Sue gives so many of us, the ability to use our voices, and let our representatives, and senators, know where we stand, on every issue, and every vote! It’s such a powerful tool. It keeps me well informed, on the most critical issues, and directs me, to the right place, to make my voice heard!
    Thanks, Sue, for all of the hard work, and endless hours, you put into Rogan’s List, every day!

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